Title: At What Price?
Author: SpookyCC
Classification: V, A, UST/MSR
Rating:, PG-13, I guess
Spoilers: "Requiem" (Yes, I'm acknowledging the pregnancy - ack! :), "Tunguska"/"Terma", "Biogenesis", FTF, maybe tiny spoilers for others...
Timeframe: Takes place two months after "Requiem". NO S8 spoilers that I know of for US Season 8 - I don't read spoilers. Basically, I guess it ignores "Without" and "Within", since they haven't aired yet, except I'm including "Dogbert" & Kersh (may the gods forgive me! :).
Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine. Especially not Dogbert. If Season 8 starts out with a similar storyline (which I seriously doubt :), you owe *me* money, CC. (Yes, I know they're actually well into this season's filming, and the premiere was in the can weeks ago, I imagine. :)|
Archive: Anywhere. Keep header and email addy attached. I'll submit to Gossamer and post at axfc.

Summary: Scully's search is finally rewarded as she finds Mulder, months after his "abduction". But at what price?

Dedication: As always, to Vixen, *my* "soulmate", and girlassassin, great friend and inspiration.

Author's notes at end.

NO beta-reader was used - all typos are *all* mine. :)

Feedback: Sure, love it!


Oregon
August 2000

Rainsoaked and frustrated, Dana Scully trudged through the forest for the thousandth time since Mulder's disappearance. As soon as she was released from the hospital, she had returned to the place where she had previously experienced the phenomenon that had thrown her away, unwanted, awaiting her partner instead. Since that time, two months ago, she had returned to Washington D.C., picked up the search there, using the FBI's resources to help explain her partner's disappearance and facilitate his return.

She shook her head disgustedly. In her heart, she felt that Mulder might not *be* returned. Ever. But, also in her heart, she knew she could never forgive herself if she stopped looking. She switched her flashlight to her other hand and continued walking.

Keeping pace but keeping his distance was her assigned partner, John Doggett, barely keeping his cynicism from outwardly showing. In his short time with Dana Scully, he had had his belief system seriously challenged, by a person who herself had once been a confirmed skeptic. Thus far, she hadn't given him any reason to abandon his beliefs for what were now apparently hers. "Dana." At her name, she paused and turned to face him. He shuddered a bit mentally, as her cold gaze swept over him. He remembered that one of her nicknames at the Washington Bureau was "Mrs. Spooky", and thus far he felt she'd earned it.

"Dana," he said again, more softly. "I know why we're here again. I know that you feel the information you received was worth the trip here. But frankly, I feel that we're spinning our wheels."

"No one insisted that you accompany me," she returned.

"Actually, someone *did* insist I come along," Doggett replied. Off her puzzled look, he elaborated. "Although Kersh wants me to keep an eye on you, as I'm sure you're aware, Skinner made it quite clear that I wasn't to allow you to return here alone. I think you know why."

Indeed she did. Skinner already felt responsible for losing Mulder. He couldn't be blamed for feeling overly protective of her.

"I know you think this is a snipe hunt, John," Scully softened her tone a bit as well. "But I received information - valid satellite information - that detected unusual readings in this area again. I can't *not* act on that, not in all good conscience."

Doggett sighed. This diminutive woman was as stubborn as she was intelligent. As she walked off ahead of him again, he found himself looking at her as a woman instead of an assigned partner. Attractive, if not gorgeous, with a... "distinctive profile", and fiery blue/green eyes. Small in stature, to be sure, but possessing an aura that exuded strength and devotion. Devotion to a partner now missing for over two months. A partner that in all likelihood she'd never see again. He sighed and took up her path once more, sloshing through puddles in her wake.

He was off in his own world when he suddenly walked into Scully's back - she had stopped on the trail, ahead of him.

"What?" he inquired.

"Look! Look at that!" Scully pointed directly ahead of them with her flashlight. Doggett followed the beam of light, and was surprised to see that it seemed to glance off something solid just ahead of them.

They walked a distance to the right of their trail, then the left. Whatever it was, and Doggett was at a loss to explain exactly *what* it was, it was *big*.

Scully walked toward the distortion purposefully.

"Whoa, wait Dana," Doggett grabbed her free arm. "You think I'm going to let you go into that - whatever *that* is?"

"I don't see that you have a choice, unless you want to come along," Scully returned.

He certainly did *not* want to go along, but he knew he had to stay with Scully - for Skinner if not for Kersh. "OK, OK, but let's stay together."

He took her free hand, ignoring the slightly arched eyebrow that action earned him. They stepped into the area together - and were surrounded by a brilliant white-light.

Before Doggett's eyes could even adjust, he landed unceremoniously on his ass, back in the wet underbrush outside the distortion.

"Fuck! Dammit! Dana!" He leaped to his feet and tried to enter the area again. Once again he was thrown clear.


Inside the distorted area, Scully was pulled forward even as Doggett was thrown away. She landed hard, her now-superfluous flashlight skittering off beyond her reach. Aware only of intense light surrounding her, she regained her footing. Unsure of which way to proceed, or even if she *could* proceed, she stood still for a moment, trying to get her bearings.

"Agent Scully, so nice of you to drop in," the voice invaded her thoughts, and she spun around. She was still alone, as far as she could tell.

"Who are you?" she asked. "Where's Mulder?"

"He's here, Agent Scully, he's here. I would presume you'd like to see him, especially since you have good news to deliver." The voice, vaguely familiar, taunted her.

"Where the hell are you?" Scully unconsciously patted her stomach, only now beginning to show the signs of her miraculous pregnancy.

The light parted ahead of her, and she blinked in amazement as a wheelchair rolled in her direction. Then the vertigo, which had been her companion since she and Mulder arrived in Oregon, claimed her, and she collapsed to the floor of the white room.


Scully awoke slowly, as her eyes became used to her now-darker surroundings. In stark contrast to her entrance into this place - whatever it was - she now lay in murky darkness.

She attempted to move, and realized that she could. But she felt tired. So tired, as though all her muscles were revolting against her desire to get up. She laid back down for a moment, collecting her thoughts and allowing her eyes to adjust.

Her second attempt at movement was moderately more successful. She swung her feet over the side of what appeared to be a table or bed, and slid to the floor. All the materials she touched seemed very much of- this-world, to her mind, at least.

A light blinked on in the corner of the room, and Scully suppressed a gasp. It illuminated another bed, and on it lay her partner.

"Mulder-" she ran as fast as her wobbly legs would carry her, to his side. He lay motionless, a white sheet covering his lean body, not restrained but not moving, eyes closed as if in sleep.

"Mulder," she reached down and touched his forehead. It was hot. Too hot. She slapped his cheeks gently, trying to revive him, struck by the sensation of deja-vu as she recalled her rescue of Mulder from the DOD installation only a year ago. Mulder did not move, did not blink. She pressed her head close to his nose and mouth, felt his breath, so welcome, on the side of her face. Laying a finger alongside his neck, she felt a racing pulse.

Immensely relieved at discovering him initially, Scully was now frustrated by his lack of consciousness. She raised each eyelid gently, noting dilated pupils. She took one of his hands in both of hers. It, too, was warmer than it should be.

"What the hell have you done to him?" she asked no one in particular.

"The same thing we did to *you*, Agent Scully. And much more." The voice came from everywhere, from nowhere, but she now recognized it.

As the realization of what had been said hit her, she ran a finger beneath the hairline on the back of Mulder's neck. Sure enough, it easily detected a small scar. "Show your face, you son-of-a-bitch!" she yelled.

The light above them went immediately out. She stood, stock- still, not leaving Mulder's side, unable to see anything in the sudden, total darkness.

A slight squeaking noise grabbed her attention, and she swung her head in its direction. Squinting her eyes uselessly, she saw nothing until a slight glow of orange appeared in the direction from which the noise had come.

"What's wrong with him?" she addressed the shadows. "Why is he unconscious?"

CGB Spender pushed a button on his mechanical wheelchair control unit, and glided over in their direction. "He needs something more. Something we don't have."

"What?"

A small puff of smoke assaulted Scully's sense of smell.

"*What* does he need?" she pushed.

"As I said," Cancerman went on calmly, "Something *we* cannot provide him with."

"Tell me," Scully asserted.

"Something only *you* possess."

His answer shocked her, at first. Perhaps it shouldn't have. Then, in- stinctively, she knew what Cancerman referred to, though he had not addressed it specifically.

"Then it's his."

"It's not as easy as that, Agent Scully."

It never was, where CGB was concerned. He thumbed another button on his remote and minimal lighting was restored to the room.

He continued before she interrupted. "Because of Mulder's previous exposure to the black oil, in Russia, and his experience with the etching of the alien artifact, he was - how shall I say? - more "receptive" to the experiments we are conducting here. His reactions were not exactly as we expected, and his continued comatose state is due in part to our lack of understanding of all the elements at work here."

"In english."

"Only two days ago did we discover the missing element. And that was when we modified the satellite emissions to alert you of our presence here."

"What?" Scully was confused. Even as a newly-minted believer of sorts, she found this information hard to assimilate. Yet here she was.

"When we *created* your - unborn child, we utilized a *new* type of human/ alien hybridization process. We had never approached the project from quite this perspective before."

Scully found it hard to believe her ears. But it didn't surprise her, not fully. How else could she have become pregnant when she had previously been found to be infertile? It *was* as she had feared. Her unborn child was a part of this conspiracy.

"We incorporated DNA from your partner," - he nodded toward the bed where Mulder lay - "in an effort to stabilize the human/alien interaction, to add a more "human" element to the equation."

Eyebrows raised, Scully assimilated all the information presented by Cancerman. Her child was Mulder's - *and* alien.

"What does this have to do with his current condition?" she asked.

Cancerman sighed, as if dealing with an impatient toddler. "Your *child* carries the DNA material that Mulder needs in order to be revived from his current state. More imperatively, he needs this DNA to *survive*."

"Then it's his," she repeated.

"I don't want you to proceed without knowing all the risks. It's not as simple as drawing blood, Agent Scully. There is a good chance that your child will not survive the procedure. There is also a chance that *you* will not survive. Mulder most *certainly* will not, without this DNA material you hold within you."

It required no real thought.

"When can we start?"


Two weeks later
Washington, DC

Mulder slid a file folder onto his newly-re-cluttered desk and glanced again in the direction of his partner. She was ostensibly typing on her laptop, but her fingers weren't moving.

Scully had evaded discussing the specifics of her most recent rescue of Mulder. Her partner didn't even know she *had* been pregnant - he certainly could not know that she had miscarried the fetus shortly after the procedure performed at the government installation in Oregon.

This day, however, she found the truth too difficult to bear alone any longer. She couldn't look into Mulder's eyes without seeing the eyes of their child, who was now never to breathe life into their empty lives.

"Scully - what is it?" Mulder had noticed she seemed distant, reserved. Not chilly or unwelcoming, as he had moved his things back into their office, but he felt as if a part of Scully was closed to him.

Scully dropped her head so that Mulder wouldn't see the tears that brimmed in her eyes. He didn't *have* to know. He didn't *need* to know. But it was tearing her up inside, and he could only swallow so many "I'm *fine*" answers before his suspicion was aroused.

Mulder stood beside Scully, placed one hand gently on her shoulder. With the other, he tipped her chin up so he could see into her eyes. They were red-streaked, sad.

"Please Scully," he pressured gently. "Tell me. Let me help."

Scully stifled a sob and nodded. He knelt before her chair, attentive, concerned.

"Mulder, I was..."

Mulder's quiet hazel eyes encouraged her to go on.

"I was pr- pregnant, Mulder," she finally stammered.

Mulder swallowed his shock at her statement. He placed his hands atop hers, and his eyes asked the next logical question.

"It was - *he* was - at least in part - what we confirmed to be extra- terrestrial," she began.

Mulder nodded slowly.

Head lowered again, Scully swiped angrily at the tears tracing paths down her cheeks.

"What else?" Mulder inquired, wiping her tears with a finger.

Scully stifled the quietest of sobs. "Mulder, he was *yours*. He was *ours*," she finally finished.

Mulder knelt motionless, then rocked back and sat on his heels, dazed.

"How did you lose him, Scully? What happened?"

Scully shook her head, almost desparately, avoiding his gaze and his questions.

"Scully, *please*. Don't close me out. What happened?" He knelt close to her once again, and took her face gently in his hands. She clasped her hands atop his, grasping at them as if for life itself.

Pain etched across Mulder's face, echoing his partner's.

"He - *they* needed DNA from the baby," she began.

"Dammit!" Mulder's anger backed her off for a moment. His voice softened immediately. "Scully, they took your child as part of an experiment?"

Scully shook her head again. "No.... Mulder... *You* needed the DNA."

One short moment of silence stretched an eternity.

"Oh G-," Mulder sat back on his heels again. "Scully, I'm so sorry."

"No... don't be, Mulder. There was a choice to be made. I made it."

Mulder blinked back salty tears of his own. "Sc - Scully," he murmered. "Now you *have* to agree with me - these costs are too high. This needs to end. *Now*. Before you lose anything more, because of my selfish quest."

Scully shook her head. "Mulder," she spoke softly, almost whispering. "Don't you see that all that has happened has made this *my* quest as well?"

His eyes questioned her, and she continued. "I know the risks, Mulder. I accept them. I'm free to leave if I want to, I always *have* been. I don't *want* to. My place is here, with you."

Deja-vu, as Mulder remembered similar sentiments she'd expressed in a plaza in Washington two years before.

A small smile flickered across Mulder's countenance, and Scully pulled him gently back onto his knees, toward her. She rested his head in her lap, tousling his hair idly with one hand. She barely heard him murmer beneath her gentle ministrations.

"Can we try again?"

-fini-


Author's Notes:

I stole the "newly-minted believer" wording from Fox's Vixen. In my humble opinion, it was put to much better use here. Though we could still use it in its original fic, B'sS. :)

The closing line can mean whatever you want it to. As for me, it has *nothing* to do with the "naked pretzel" and *everything* to do with resuming Mulder's quest for the Truth with a capital "T". :)

"If you can take Mulder and Scully out of the show and it doesn't change anything, it's not an X-File." -Paul Rabwin-

 

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